St. Joseph wins Turkey clash

It was a game that had to be moved forward a day to accommodate the impending snowstorm, but the schedule change didn’t take away from the excitement of the Thanksgiving matchup between coach Joe Della Vecchia’s St. Joseph Cadets and coach Bob Maffei’s Trumbull Eagles at Trumbull High School’s McDougall Stadium. In the end, it was the Cadets (9-2) who emerged victorious, defeating the Eagles (4-7) by a score of 49-30.

“We were really shooting ourselves in the foot the first half, and our players had a very emotional meeting during halftime,” Della Vecchia said. “We have four kids we can call on to catch the ball, and we can really go to any of them.”

Maffei’s Eagles opened the game with a statement, as Markeese Woods returned the kickoff down the sideline for a 95-yard touchdown return. Danny Hoffman’s conversion kick was good, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead just fourteen seconds into the first quarter.

St. Joseph wasted no time catching up. After Lars Pedersen returned the kickoff to the Eagles’ 44, Cadet quarterback Cory Babineau shot a quick pass to Pedersen, who carried the ball the rest of the way for the 44-yard touchdown.

Marc Mrozek’s extra-point kick tied the score, and both teams had found the end zone within the first minute of play.

Trumbull quarterback Stephen Nagy connected with Jack Kelly and Prithvi Mahesh on a series of gains to bring the Eagles to the Cadets’ 30-yard line.

Nagy then handed off to Adam Angelucci, who took off down the right sideline and broke away for a 30-yard touchdown, but a holding penalty against the Eagles negated the score and backed the action up to the Cadets’ 40-yard line.

Nagy picked up 15 yards on a subsequent quarterback draw play, but another holding penalty voided the gain.

The frustrated Eagles picked up yardage on a run by Woods, but the Cadets’ defense stopped the drive and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs with 6:05 left in the first quarter.

Pedersen picked up 21 yards and brought the Cadets into Eagle territory on the second play of the drive, but things took an unexpected turn when a St. Joseph fumble was recovered by the Eagles’ Dorian Washington.

Trumbull struggled to move the ball far into St. Joseph territory until Nagy found Angelucci with a screen pass on third-and-long to bring ball all the way to the nine-yard line.

Angelucci carried the ball into the end zone from there, breaking several tackles along the way.

Cameron Ryan blocked Hoffman’s kick, but the touchdown gave Trumbull a 13-7 lead with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.

“We have a lot to build on,” Maffei said. “Our seniors played hard every game, and they laid a nice foundation for our younger players. We are very proud of them.”

Patrick Battista returned the ensuing kickoff to the Trumbull 40-yard line, and the Cadets catapulted their way down the field just a few plays later.

On second-and-6, Babineau launched a rocket down the field and connected with Pedersen for a 42-yard gain, moving the chains to the eight-yard line.

Pedersen carried the ball on first-and-goal for a four-yard gain, but a fumble on second down was recovered by Trumbull’s Cory Haslam with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Eagles worked their way down the field with a sustained drive highlighted by two quarterback keepers by Nagy for 35 yards and a 14-yard screen pass to Angelucci.

They pushed all the way to the six-yard line before Nagy kept the ball for a touchdown, but once again, Trumbull’s score was snatched back by a penalty — this time for an illegal block.

The drive stalled, but the Eagles were able to salvage their efforts with a 26-yard field goal by Hoffman to extend their lead to 16-7.

Pedersen returned the kickoff to the Cadets’ 31-yard line, and St. Joseph got things moving quickly with a 13-yard run by senior Mufasha Abdul Basir.

Abdul Basir carried the ball for another 9-yard gain, bringing the Cadets to the 47-yard line of Trumbull.

On the very next play, Babineau again handed off to Abdul Basir, who took off down the left side of the field for a 47-yard touchdown run. Mrozek’s kick was good, slicing the Eagles’ lead to 16-14 with 4:46 left in the half.

The two teams traded possession and tried to put together scoring drives, but the half closed out with the Eagles still leading by two.

Trumbull recovered an onside kick to open up the second half, starting its drive at the 50-yard line.

The Eagles seemed prepared to go three-and-out, sending out the punt team on fourth down, but kicker Kris DiCocco faked the kick and instead passed to Kelly for the first down.

The play was equal parts unorthodox and genius, but the gain was voided by yet another penalty against Trumbull.

Trumbull was forced to punt, and the Cadets worked their way down the field with a series of short runs and passes.

Babineau connected with Battista for a 21-yard gain to bring St. Joseph to the Trumbull 15-yard line, and Abdul Basir sealed the deal with a 14-yard touchdown run on third and eight.

The touchdown gave the Cadets their first lead of the game, and Mrozek’s kick widened the margin to 21-16 with 7:06 left in the third quarter.

The Eagles went three and out on their next possession, and St. Joseph capitalized on the opportunity to extend their lead.

Abdul Basir started off the drive with a 27-yard gain, and three plays later, Babineau handed off to Pedersen, who carried the ball down the left side of the field for a 39-yard touchdown.

St. Joseph’s defense again forced the Eagles to go three-and-out, and it was déjà vu all over again as the Cadets took over at the Trumbull 30 and Babineau found Seamus Keating for the 20-yard touchdown, stretching the lead to 35-16.

Trumbull took over near the 50-yard line, and Nagy linked up with Mike Miller for a 14-yard gain before finding a wide-open Kelly for a 33-yard pass, bringing the Eagles all the way to the two-yard line.

Angelucci finished the job with the 2-yard run, narrowing the deficit to 35-23.

Any momentum Trumbull may have gained from the play was shut down by the following play, when Abdul Basir took off for a 49-yard touchdown on the first play of St. Joseph’s possession, taking the score to 42-23.

The Cadets capped off their night with one final touchdown, as Babineau found Pedersen in the end zone once more this time with a 39-yard aerial.

The Eagles got the points back a few minutes later when Nagy linked up with Kelly for a 9-yard touchdown pass, but it was too little, too late for the Eagles, and the game closed out with the score 49-30 in favor of the Cadets.